What role does the Common Man play in Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons?

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Bolt's character of the Common Man in A Man for All Seasons is in modern drama both something new and old: New, because he acts in many different roles to establish his credentials as a mouthpiece for humanity; old, because he functions rather in the manner of the Chorus found in much classical Greek theatre. What distinguishes the Common Man from the Chorus is the kind of judgment on human experience. Where the Chorus provided the heroes and heroines with the insights they needed to choose the good, the Common Man in his various manifestations tends toward moral turpitude. For example, when the jailer muses about whether to set free the imprisoned More, he addresses the audience on the theme of the futility of trying to do the right thing. Overall, the Common Man is complicit in the legal and political malice visited upon More, and thus acts as a foil to the noble conscience of the saint.

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